I am getting some huge armor numbers for all units. Leather is doing way too much. I would say a full suit of Leather would be keen to do 13 Defense as it does. Chain should do 18 Defense +18 Cutting Bonus. 24 Defense makes those units nigh invincible. Add a shield, Stoneskin, Ironskin, and Shieldwall to beat the game in your sleep. Plate is okay at 48, but it should require more training time so that we only have one of them in an army. There needs to be a few strategies for cracking these guys open. I have yet to research a tech that can do that. Wages are the only thing keeping these brutes in check, but really you only need one to end the game.
The problem I am having is that the AI never uses Leather. When it does, I already have plate or a hero in found plate and am at 80 Defense. Me and Werewindlfr (I don't know what it means either) are already looking at increasing all weapon damage by 3 to allow some damage against armored units. Also looking at making things perform a little more realistically, which I think would help the overall game design.
If you think of it as each new tech offering a new strategy, Weapons and Leatherworking are exactly where we want them, but weapons are not able to do decent damage against full Leather. I would nerf Leather a bit so that Average damage is 5 per soldier in a unit with no traits or magics used. Axe should counter dodgy units and be a good low metal option. Dagger should be the high Initiative/Counterattack choice. Maybe give it 2 counterattacks and +2 Init so that we don't use them as light cavalry anymore, it looks ridiculous. Spear is best suited to fight higher tier units obviously. It is 2-handed, does good penetration and prevents counters. No more need be done there. Warhammer is great for knocking about Chain clad troops and is the weapon of choice if you have no metal. This could be tweaked to have a cost of .5 Metal and cost less to produce. No reason we should only be using integers for cost.
The next tier is shortbows and blacksmiths. Mace should be something to do a ton of damage with, but the weight prevents you from choosing anything other than +Weight Capacity for traits. The Init penalty is fine, but the damage should be higher so that it is worth it. Mounted Macemen should be the scourge of this part of the game. They will be the counters to Shortbow Archers, whom are excellent at knocking out low armored units from afar. Boar Spear does good damage and is once again a weapon for countering sword and shield. Spears make the unit very vulnerable to arrows and other units somewhat. This is a nice balance. Round shield should weigh more. It is very strong. Dodge levels should be doubled across the board, but I'll post about that later. In general this tier is the best designed. It adds some new strategies to counter above and below its tier, plus it offers some countering within the tier. The only hiccup is that Wargs are there. +1 Init does nothing compared to the Weight Capacity bonus of Horses. It should get rid of that or do even more than horses. The better choice would be to make Wargs do something unique. Maybe give them +2 Moves or Quick as a trait bonus. I would also like them to get an extra counterattack. Just needs some love is all.
The next tier is where things get rather unbalanced and counterintuitive. Chainmail doubles the defense of leather. Why? It should absolutely be more protective, but I think it goes too far. As I understand it, Chain is great at stopping the slash of a sword, but is not great for much else. Plate is commonly worn in combination with it to give the core body protection against blunt and pierce damage. I would lower the overall defense values to about 18. That is still 25 true defense with a Kite Shield in hand. That means Shortbows, Spears and Maces are hard pressed to kill the unit without many return hits. If you are skipping this unit's turn, it is a perfect tank for the tier. The current design never forces this decision on the player. I think it should. One thing to think about is making sure Leather blends well with Chain and Plate. The models seem to clash right now, but it is very common to want a mix of two of these armor types. I like the idea that Cutting would get 25 extra defense. That part of the design is solid, it is only the sky high true armor levels that make the armor levels get too high, obscuring the clever strategies. And get rid of the Init penalties for greaves and breastpiece. Just make Encumbrance do more of penalty.
The next thing to look at are the weapons of this tier. Battleaxe is a great choice to brutalize leather troops of the previous tier. I would even add 3 attack since it will be mostly for persuading the enemy to use Chain. With these proposed changes it would be well countered by Chainmail and leave the unit open to arrow attacks. Longbow is right where it should be to do that. Shortsword and Broadsword need some rethinking. The choice here is hard to see. Shortsword should do two counterattacks and have +4 init, weight 5 is about right, and it should cost 1 metal with a low production cost. Broadsword should have a higher attack difference. If Battleaxe did 18 damage, Broadsword would be free to do 14 Damage at +2 Init, weight 10, metal cost 2. Now the difference is between doing enough damage to breach chainmail and having many more attacks in a battle. If you are fighting weaker units, Shortsword is best and cheaper. Once your enemies get Chain, you had better be using Chainmail, Kite Shield, and Broadsword. This is the point where Sword and Shield should become the standard weapons of the armies of the realm. Once one nation gets to this point, all others need to start busting their asses to also get there. That means the AI should be trading Knowledge and reducing taxes. In this proposal, Spears and Maces would still be useful in a battle, but the higher tiers have a clear advantage. Currently, we are seeing chain make all weapons useless and one unit defeat an entire army. The culprit is high defense with too few counters.
The next tier falls flat. There are only two options, Yew Bows and Longsword. What do we want these weapons to do? I would like Yew Longbows to do more damage and have 10% armor penetration. Just so the tip gets to the skin once in a while. This is the final bow tech, but it is not too much better than the first one. The tech cost is also more than War Colleges. That is a good call as long as the Bow is a terrifying presence on the battlefield. Longsword should be doing much better damage. At this point we are countering broadswords and chainmail. There are limited choices here. It can't be faster than previous iterations of the sword. It must therefore do more damage. Bigger and stronger. Enough to do some really good damage against chainmail. That means breaking through 32 points of defense. Assuming they have a shield and some other armor on average, it will be about 40 Def. So if Longsword does 25 Damage, that is about 10 max damage and 5 minimum. I find that reasonable. The catch will be that it does about 14/7 to leather, but that is probably fine as long as there are more options to increase Hp at this point in the game. I say 25 damage is great for Longsword as long as it gets only 1 Counterattack and no Init bonus. It is not an agile sword I think. Cost should be 2.5 Metal and a high labor cost. We don't want too many of these in an army. They will naturally be flanking units, as you won't want them to be taking the brunt of the enemy attacks, but instead knocking off side units with its high damage. This tier also gives us Squads. This is well balanced because you have to get through sieges to obtain it, meaning it is almost in a separate tier. The choice would be to go forward or go back and get sieges and then Squads.
The next tier is where the endgame balance comes into play. Plate should be the best armor, but prohibitive in many respects. 35 true armor is a great start for full plate. It should be hard to overcome. It should be frakking heavy, but have not inherent Init penalty. It should Cost tons of metal. It should cost alot of labor. These units are the Ubermeinch of the game! All will fear them! But in most cases, as well as in history, players will be using the greaves and breastpiece only. They will want chain on the arms and legs. The helmet is a toss up. Plate is in an awkward position right now because it has no counter. Weapons of War should counter it rather well, but they don't offer nearly enough attack to do any real damage. The problem here is systematic. Because Blunt is what Plate is design to counter, Blunt is unable to counter Plate. Pike could counter Plate, but it does not do enough damage and the 2-handed penalty makes this kind of unit a weak target for all other units. Good luck getting them close enough to hit a plate clad unit. Greatsword would seem to be a decent counter, but Plate has such a high true defense, the weapon is moot.
I propose that blunt no longer be what Plate counters. It is true that a hard steel shell would do better against Plate, but that does not mean it should do 100 defense against all blunt weapons. That is way out of proportion. Sometimes good design means you cannot choose a linear succession of counters. Plate would be better suited to work as leather. High defense in all areas. It is the pinnacle of armor technology. There is no need to have it be invincible against any damage type, especially since it is unrealistic in this case. The counter for Plate should be Armor Penetration. That is essentially what it comes down to. Pike should do more damage to kill Plate clad units. Plate units should be heavy and expensive. Most of the time only a few pieces of plate will be chosen due to price and weight. Trogs should be able to wear full plate of course, but few others. Heroes perhaps. Maul should be the ideal blunt weapon to crack open plate. It should do alot more damage and be very very heavy. You will need to choose light armor to wield it, but if you should be able to do better damage than a pike. The choice between the two should be more damage per hit with a Maul and the lighter weight and immunity to counterattacks that a Pike offers. Greatsword, as with Battleaxe is mostly good for countering light armored units. It should get 2 counterattacks and have 25 Cutting Damage at 2.5 Metal and the same labor as Longsword. This weapon honestly feels out of place as cutting weapons are pretty easily countered and over-represented so far.
In the endgame the battle should be about getting high armor units to the front line. They are slow, so it will take a while. The plate unit in an army is the front line. The Maulers and Pikies will stand on the side of the plated units, waiting to attack the enemy tanks. Bows should focus on mages and archers, then turning on Maulers and Pikies once the other team's ranged units are crippled. This would be the conventional endgame army. Many other options could be used, but this needs to be the standard from which all other strategies deviate.
Link to the FE Modding section in case you want to try it out.